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Remembering Cricket
Cowboy Museum Tips Hat To Legendary Mare
Cricket Cross 005
A touching tribute to a man and his horse as flowers and wreaths from the passing of Walt Taylor were placed at the east Highway 108 site where Cricket greeted travelers on their way through the foothills toward Yosemite. - photo by Photo Courtesy Karen Serpa
 A lone horse stands by the fence watching traffic.This was a common scene for many eastbound travelers on Highway 108 as they traveled between Oakdale and Knights Ferry on their way through the foothills. Many did not know her name or her circumstances, yet they adopted her in their heart just the same.‘Cricket’ was a buckskin mare that belonged to the late Walt Taylor. A horse, like its owner, that has become a legend in her own right. At the age of 36 years, Cricket passed away in 1993.An exhibit paying tribute to the buckskin mare will open on the evening of Thursday, July 22 at the Oakdale Cowboy Museum. According to Museum Director Christie Camarillo, the exhibit “Remembering Cricket” is the first of its kind for the museum. Camarillo shared that for many years the museum has displayed a few photos and a T-shirt donated by the Taylor family memorializing the well-known mare.“So many people have come by the museum and shared their memories of Cricket as they travel up the hill,” Camarillo said. “Now, what we are seeing is the passing down of (the story to) the generations. People come to visit the museum and their children know the story of Cricket and how their parents would look for her on their travels as children.”Just prior to the 2010 new year, Taylor, a local rancher and cowman, went to meet his horse at the age of 81. Taylor had lived in the Oakdale area all his life and, being in the cow business, he had many good horses and dogs. However, he was also known as the owner of Cricket, the notorious buckskin mare that stood along the fence on Highway 120/108 just east of Oakdale. After Taylor’s funeral services, the flowers and wreaths were gathered and placed along a familiar setting where, many years earlier, flowers and wreaths had been placed in memory of Cricket. It seemed life had gone full circle with Taylor and his buckskin mare.Camarillo wrote an extensive piece about Cricket in an issue of the museum’s newsletter earlier this year, outlining details of the ‘life and times’ of the mare.“It was late 1959, at a Sales Yard in Nevada that Walt Taylor, purchased a two year old buckskin mare. What would transpire over the next 51 years is a story that continues to be carried down through the generations. Cricket came to the Taylor ranch where she was trained to be an all-around ranch horse. She was a smart horse and was known for sizing up her mounts pretty well. If she carried an experienced rider she would perk up and perform as good as any good horse would. However, if she thought she could get away with something she would take advantage of the opportunity; dropping her head to graze and pulling the reins from the rider. Walt’s son Pat Taylor, recalled a time when they were gathering cattle in Merced and his younger brother was riding her. “When we arrived at the corrals, Cricket and my brother were no where to be seen. We went looking for them and found my brother had fallen asleep atop Cricket and she was just standing there eating grass.” Cricket helped raise Walt’s kids, the neighbor kids and later his grandkids. “I won my first buckle on her at the Angels Camp Jr. Rodeo,” recalled Pat.“As Cricket matured and got up in age, Walt retired her to a 320 acre pasture between Oakdale and Knights Ferry where she had plenty of feed, water and oak trees for shade. No one really knew why she decided to spend most of her day along the fence …” Camarillo wrote.To the novice, she appeared lonely, seeking companionship. To a cowboy, she appeared to be catching the breeze as it came off the hillside. The breeze not only kept her cool, but kept the flies at bay as well.“She was just a ranch horse,” Pat said. “She just did anything. She was a good cuttin’ horse and babysitter to all the grandkids.“She was a horse that had worked hard all her life,” he added. “When she was retired she was free to roam 320 acres of pasture land with shade from oak trees and peacefulness. She had the life.”In 1993, Cricket passed away and the family made the decision to bury her near “her” spot along the highway where she enjoyed standing for so many years.Camarillo’s article continues: “The Taylor family began to receive many inquires about what happened to Cricket so they asked the local newspaper to run a story and Walt erected a cross where Cricket stood. The word was out; the friendly buckskin mare was gone. Then by the dozens, flowers, wreaths, cards and letters were being placed on the fence in her memory.”The sentiments, Taylor’s companion Virginia Gibson told Camarillo, were “overwhelming.”But it didn’t stop at just expressions of loss and sympathy. As Camarillo noted in her article: “Over $1200 in contributions were received and donated to help children learn to ride through the Faire Breeze Youth Ranch and the CARE-ousel Therapeutic Riding Program.“Since Cricket had helped so many children learn to ride, it felt appropriate,” Virginia said. A memorial Cricket T-Shirt was also created to raise funds for the two organizations.”According to Camarillo, she approached Walt Taylor with the idea of an expanded tribute to Cricket in late fall of 2009. By mid-December he stopped in to see Camarillo at the museum to follow up.“He got this huge grin on his face and said, ‘Okay let’s do it’,” Camarillo shared.When Taylor passed later that month, Camarillo along with museum volunteers Twainhart Hill and Sharon Getchel, decided they would see the project through. A tribute, to not just a horse, but also to a cowboy and a community of people who had embraced the unassuming mare for many years.As the story goes, many passersby never actually knew Cricket’s name until the cross was placed by her standing post. Travelers would assign her their own special name and watch for her as a marker as they would make their travels through the area.“She was there every time people drove by,” Taylor said in a 1995 Oakdale Leader article.“She was a character,” son Pat recalled of the sway backed beauty. “She did not like to be tied up. If you tied her up she would pull out of the hitching post and break the halter. But if you placed her next to the post and left her untied, she’d stand there for hours.”Hill and Getchel have been the primary coordinators in compiling the memorable exhibit. The two women shared that while they were not in the area during Cricket’s tenure, they have been amazed by her following. “Reading through all the letters,” Hill said, “and the Face Book posts, there is such a following for so many different reasons.”“The excitement people would get when seeing Cricket,” Getchel added, “it’s really special.”“What the story of Cricket shows is how everybody is connected,” Taylor’s younger son David said.He shared the story of how he left the area for college and was stopped one day on campus while wearing the infamous Cricket commemorative T-shirt.“The person asked me how I knew Cricket,” David said through a smile. “I told them, well it’s my dad’s horse.”Of the many items that will be on display during the exhibit, one includes a quote from Walt Taylor, “She’s not a fancy horse, but she’s a durable old gal.”And so … a horse, a cowboy and a legacy continue through the walls of the museum and the minds of many who were fortunate enough to know — or know of — Cricket and her owner. For additional information on the exhibit, Camarillo may be contacted at (209) 847-5163. Memories of the mare can be posted on her Face Book page.